Not only do I remember staying in one as a child, I also chose the Viscount caravan to be part of the Van Go collection because it’s such an iconic Australian brand. One of my favourites, the Viscount 1968 Ambassador, with its distinctive ‘lightning flash’ or ‘twin flash’ design, features in our Winter Collection, and the 1978 Supreme Pop Top, with its fabulous pop-up roof, is part of our Magical Mornings range.
History of the Viscount Caravans
The Viscount Caravans brand dates back to the 1950’s, when carpenter John Carr and his wife Maureen arrived in Adelaide as British ‘Ten Pound Pom’ immigrants. Soon after, John began building caravans for a small, local business before deciding to build his own caravan, which they lived in when their daughter Jacky was born.
The second caravan John built was displayed at the Royal Adelaide Show, which Maureen sold to a buyer; then, as word spread regarding John’s workmanship, Viscount Caravans was soon off to a flying start.
Before long, John moved his business to a purpose-built factory, and then when he realised the potential of the caravan market in the eastern states, moved his growing family to Sydney and opened his own operation there (initially in a horse stable!). The move proved to be a very good one indeed, with Viscount Caravans also expanding to other states.
We can thank Viscount for bringing mass production to the caravan industry, giving Australian families the chance to buy a caravan for the very first time. In the 1960’s, as Australians became more prosperous, Viscount was producing stylish and durable caravans prolifically.
Competition was strong between the now 60-odd manufacturers, with each company attempting to produce superior caravans. In keeping up with the times, wooden frames became aluminium, oil stoves and iceboxes were upgraded to stoves and electric refrigerators, and electric lighting soon became standard in all vans.
Viscount Caravans launched many models over their reign as the largest caravan manufacturer in the country, but the most recognised were the Valiant (1962-75), Ambassador (1964-70), Royal (1971-78) and Supreme (1975-80) models. Both the Valiant and Ambassador were re-designed in 1965 with the dynamic new ‘lightning flash’ on the side.
Viscount set the standard for great value, luxury caravans with an exclusive selection of high quality appliances and fittings. Always adopting new innovations, Viscounts were known for their large, curved ‘wraparound’ corner windows, as well as their aluminium cladding, referred to as Duralvans. After taking over arch-rival Millard in 1978, three out of every four vans sold were Viscount vans.
Today, you’ll see many Viscounts on the road, after finding their way back into the hearts of the many Australians who have renovated their vintage vans to enjoy once again. This is testament to the quality of these vintage vans – still around after all these years!
If you’d like to read more about the Viscount Caravans, click on the link below: